Some of the best stories are always those that have a little or large amounts of truth. Apart from playing on the stranger-than-fiction impulse that makes them so watchable, it’s also educational — and humans, deep within, like to learn things.
The same applies for the Assassin’s Creed series, albeit in a different way. By allowing us to explore the intricacies of historical characters, people are able to enjoy monumental events and places in time in a completely different light. It might not have led to a rise in students taking modern history at high school, but it most certainly is fun.
So, Assassin’s Creed III took us to colonial America. Where next?
When considering the merit of various historical events, you have to remember to synchronise them with the Assassin’s Creed structure. The main protagonist must grow up disillusioned, aggrieved at the desecration of his village (Connor), victim to the crimes of injustice (Altair) or politics (Ezio).
(Desmond, being a twat and more boring than a fence-post, does not count.)
Any scene or event of significance needs to last long enough for the new hero – and let’s face it, nobody wants Connor hanging around for three years – to grow up and survive without becoming stale or dull.
The Boxer Rebellion was one of the topics I covered almost a decade ago in Modern History for high school. It provides a rich tapestry of intrigue, political betrayal, an international dogfight, and enough human tragedy to serve Ubisoft’s needs.
More importantly, it also gives the developer a chance to delve into Asian lore, something often ignored by Western developers, from a perspective that the Chinese would not only encourage, but may even assist in.
Even the Boxers themselves — also known as The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists — were a secret society of their own; they believed that through the mastery of many Assassin-like traits, such as martial arts and calisthenics, they would gain extraordinary abilities. That shouldn’t be too long a bow for Ubisoft’s writers to draw, considering one of the opening scenes in the original Assassin’s Creed showed the assassin’s making a leap of faith as a show of their devotion to the order.
Other secret clubs and groups predated the Boxers, which would be enough to cover the initial chapters showing a young urchin living off the streets, spying on the Chinese branch of the Assassin order before learning their skills and being inducted himself.
The plot could be sufficiently dense by taking the player through the discontent and anger felt at the time over the presence of mostly European missionaries, who were protected by various regional and provincial government edicts.
A writer could quite easily shoehorn an excuse to explore the machinations of the Qing empire at the time; Empress Dowager Cixi as a character would provide a powerful, cunning female presence that could become an example for other developers. Her insistence on demanding her subjects show loyalty by becoming eunuchs would even make for a delightfully wicked scene.
Even the larger-scale battles of the American revolution wouldn’t be a daunting task, since the Boxer Rebellion had plenty of large scale firefights between the Chinese and the international troops – although the one-sided nature of fighting machine guns with kung-fu could be somewhat challenging. Still, their guerilla tactics, such as sabotaging railroad lines and telegraph lines to hamper the Western forces supplies and communication, would be perfectly suited for an assassin.
Given that China also came off worse in the exchange, with international troops occupying China and the eastern power’s monarchical system badly weakened as a result, it may even be happy to offer government assistance in helping Ubisoft research and produce the game. China’s typical reluctance towards projects covering historical ground may not even be an issue here, since it would be a rare opportunity to take part in something that casts their history in a proud light, something that gets people to engage and enjoy the history of China in a positive fashion.
Naturally there would be many other hurdles, of course, but it’s a tapestry worth weaving. Assassin’s Creed is at its best exploring that fine line between history and what we can remember, the hazy area full of intrigue and plausibility. Even the red and white colour scheme fits Asia perfectly.
So come on Ubisoft. We’ve done Europe. We’ve done the Middle East. We’ve done North America. Let’s take it to China, and take a leap of faith off the Great Wall.